“Recession still alive in rural Ireland”

VFI Publican Alan Gielty spoke to Independent.ie about the difficulties publicans are facing in rural Ireland.

Alan is the owner of Gielty’s Bar and Restaurant in the village of Dooagh, Achill Island, Co. Mayo. Alan recognises the recession may be over on the mainland but rural Ireland have yet to reap the benefits.

“The recession might be over on the mainland but it hasn’t filtered down here yet. If there’s recovery on the mainland it can take a while to come the islands,” he said.

Alan has however seen an improvement in the last two years as families in the area have more disposable income, but winter nights in the pub are still quiet. What has been a saving grace for Alan and indeed may be the case for many other rural pubs is the increase in tourism.

He said: “We have the tourism aspect here so it has picked up and there is a bit of a recovery. Last year there was a big improvement and this year has been on par with it which is great.”

The proposed drink driving bill which will see all motorists receive an automatic three month ban from the roads if found under the influence of alcohol will have an big impact in rural Ireland. Alan said he had “zero tolerance for drink driving”, but that it isn’t easy for people to get taxis in rural areas.

“Minister Shane Ross must think it’s easy to get a taxi in rural Ireland but it isn’t easy. You can have three or four people in a car and they’re all going different directions. The pub is the community center of rural areas and if you’re at home all day on your own farming, it can be very isolating if you can’t get out,” he added.

A couple of years ago Alan purchased his very own shuttle bus and started a “You drink, we drive” campaign to transport customers to and from the pub. Alan believes that the government should offer incentives for pubs to offer transport to customers.

(l-r) Alan Gielty presented with the “RSA Leading Lights Award in February 2011” by Gay Byrne for offering such a good safe service with ‘You Drink, We Drive’.

Alan said: “We go within a five-mile radius. We have our regulars but we get tourists too. There should be an incentive given to pubs for transport. It would make operating shuttle buses more attractive to pub owners and make the pub more attractive to people as to people as they wouldn’t have to worry about getting home.”

Alan said that as a publican “you constantly need to think outside the box” to try engage with customers.

“Older pubs back in the day were like older petrol stations. They just filled petrol or pumped your wheel but today when you walk into a petrol station they have everything. You constantly have to think of a new angle and think outside the box and bring your initiative.”

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